One of my MIL’s special event Hungarian treats were these... these - what to call them?? We always called them “sajtos” - which translates to “cheesies” - not a very sophisticated label.
Having now researched these a bit, I note that some Hungarian sites call them “sajtos rud” - which sort of translates to “cheese stick” or “cheese straw” - but because I cut them into small-ish pieces, "sticks / straws” do not apply.
So in English, let's call them Hungarian Cheese Snacks.
Imagine these as part of a charcuterie / antipasto spread. Or - if it's a trend to serve wine with potato chips - surely these are more classy. When it comes right down to it, I can't think of any time when these would not be a big hit!
This recipe is based on one from zserbo.com, with some tweaks that, IMHO, make the results outstanding - and a perfect re-creation of my MIL's classic recipe. Since making these the first time I found a very similar recipe in my Mom's recipe box - see Notes if interested.
The first batch was a hit, but Mr. KB and I felt it was just a wee bit off the taste memory I was trying to replicate. We suspected the ingredient to tweak was salt - and it was. This should not have been surprising, since many favourite snacks are salty. See Notes for tips on how I subtly, but effectively, increased the salt, and to read more about some interesting discoveries as I experimented and tweaked.
The recipe makes about 4 dozen of these bite-sized treats. The dough needs to be chilled for at least two hours, ideally overnight. These store well for days in a lightly covered container. They also freeze well.
Typical of European recipes, the ingredients are weighed - time to get a digital scale if you do't already have one. They're not expensive and you'll never regret it! I have offered approximate equivalent measures by volume. (By weight, it's easy to remember as the 250 g x 3 recipe - haha!)
250 g (about 2 cups) flour
1 tsp table salt (see Notes)
250 g (about 1 cup; technically 17 TB) salted butter
250 g (about 1 cup) St Lucia Ricotta or Quark (see Notes)
Put the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix. Cut the cold butter into 1 TB cubes and add to the food processor bowl. Pulse about 10 times until the butter has been incorporated, resulting in a slightly granular mixture.
Distribute the ricotta cheese over the flour mixture, pulse a few times and then run the food processor until the mixture comes together – this will not take long.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for a few minutes. Though this is not a puff pastry, the kneading is how you create the “layers”. Use the typical kneading technique - push twice with the heel of your hand, then fold the dough over and repeat about 4 times. That seems to be enough for the dough to bake up into nice layers. Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill at least two hours, ideally overnight.
50 g of finely grated cheese - Emmenthal or Gruyère (about 1 cup grated)
Remove the dough from the fridge - a short time at room temperature will make it more workable. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until about 1/2 inch thick. Generously brush the top with the well beaten egg - the finely grated cheese will adhere to that.
At this point you can either cut the dough into desired sized pieces, transfer these to the bake sheet and sprinkle with the grated cheese.
Or - my preference - sprinkle the grated cheese onto the dough before cutting. I find that makes it easier to distribute the cheese evenly, with less “waste” of cheese dropping onto the bake sheet. (You'll probably get two dozen on each bake sheet.)
Bake on sheets lined with parchment in an oven preheated to 350 F, for 20-25 minutes (or until golden brown), rotating the bake sheet at the half-way mark.
These store well for days in a lightly covered container. They are delicious even at room temperature, but can be crisped up in a 350 F oven for a few minutes. They also freeze well.
Notes and Tips...
- Salt - I use table salt because I assume that would have been most common in traditional Hungarian recipes. Since I was also aiming for a more salty flavour - table salt delivers. Read my overview of salts and salty - you may be surprised!
- Butter - though it is customary to use unsalted butter in baking - for this recipe salted helped the flavour profile.
- Ricotta - The original recipe calls for “cottage cheese” - and what could that possibly mean? If this recipe is coming from Hungary, then I’m betting the cheese they’d use would not be “lumpy” cottage cheese that appears in a diet lunch. They’d be using “farmer’s cheese”, also known as “Quark”. I used to buy that easily some decades ago, but now never seem to be able to find it, so I opted for ricotta - and was not able to get my favourite (St. Lucia). After the first batch (which was not optimally flavourful), here’s what I figured out. The popular brand name, traditional ricotta I used the first time had only 40 mg of sodium per serving, whereas St. Lucia has 100 mg for the same serving size. That can make a difference! I advise you to use St Lucia, or check the sodium content of the ricotta you buy.
- Grated Cheese - you want to use a semi-hard cheese with a pronounced flavour. Hungarians love to use Emmenthal; Gruyère would also works.
- Shape? - the "parallelogram" is a common shape for this snack, but you could use a cookie cutter to make small rounds. Guests may even be tricked into thinking you've made them "pogácsa" - a much more complicated flaky biscuit.
- As mentioned in the intro, these were always made by my MIL and I do not recall my mother making them. Much of last year was spent emptying her house and this year I am still sorting through her things - such as recipes. This was stapled to an index card, and not hand-written, so I have to assume someone gave it to her. Amazing how similar it is - except for the added egg and sour cream. I may have to try that one day.
- For KB Recipe Attribution Practices please click here.
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